Marketplace Czech incentives attract more foreign filmmakers but big Hollywood productions are yet to come back
The Czech Republic is slowly re-establishing itself as a prime destination for international film and TV productions, mainly thanks to an increasingly generous incentives programme. TV and film producers spent some five billion crowns in the Czech Republic last year, the highest amount in nearly a decade.
This year, US spy thriller Unlocked starring Michael Douglas and Orlando Bloom is set to begin filming in November. Ludmila Claussová is the head of the Czech Film Commission, a government agency responsible for attracting international productions. She says many productions today are mid-sized – and it won’t be easy to attract the kind of big budget Hollywood productions seen here in the 1990s.
“Compared to last year which was full of TV productions – we had several TV series shot in the Czech Republic – this year, big films are coming back. We had a very interesting Chinese movie, Only We Know Where, shot here this summer, and we had a Danish fantasy film at the beginning of the year.
“Now, a Belgian production is filming Emperor in the Czech Republic, a period movie starring Adrien Brody, and we expect that a film starring Michael Douglas and Orlando Bloom to start shooting in early November.
“There will also be a Norwegian period film which is to start next week, a French period film shooting right now. So this year looks like it’s full of period costume films.”
Is that a coincidence or have you made extra efforts to advertise the Czech Republic as an ideal destination for shooting period films?
“I don’t think it’s an accident. I think filmmakers know the Czech Republic has many historical locations with period architecture, and they know there are creative crews able to build sets for period films, all of this at very competitive prices.”
The government introduced incentives for film productions in 2010, and the budget has since increased to an annual 800 million crowns. Are the incentives really the major reason behind the apparent return of international film producers to the Czech Republic?
“Yes. The incentives are now the most important marketing tool you can have for attracting international productions. Film business has become very globalized and can migrate easily. Many governments around the world are offering incentives to attract the business to their countries.
“So the competition is huge, and when producers look at possible locations, they will only go to countries which offer incentives. If we did not, the country would not have any international film business.”
Given the limited budget, do all productions that apply for these incentives actually get them?
“With the call for applications in January, we always register a higher interest than the budget can satisfy. So we have a lot of interest but during the year, some projects get postponed or cancelled and the reality is that every project shot or produced in the Czech Republic in the end received a 20-percent rebate.”
In the 1990s, a number of big Hollywood blockbusters were filmed here but in the last couple of years, it was mainly medium-sized projects. Why do you think that the big productions are yet to find their way back to the Czech Republic?
“First of all, I think the whole industry has changed since the 1990s. The budgets are lower and the producers are much more careful. Compared to the “wild” 1990s when the budgets were immense, no one would spend so much money today, after the financial crisis.”
“Another thing is that the Czech incentives programme started in 2010 with a very limited budget. It was in fact only 200 million, 300 million in 2011 and 2012 and it has since increased to 800 million.
“This kind of limited budget can hardly attract those big productions. They don’t even try to apply because they realized they would have used up half of the budget which probably did not seem realistic to them.
“The Czech Republic has perhaps become a place where small- and mid-sized budget films are produced. But I think that with the higher incentives – and we have seen this with the Emperor film or the thriller Unlocked – we will be getting more big-budget films again.”
Your statistics suggest that TV commercials have become an important segment. What type of audio-visual industry is the biggest spender?
“International TV and film productions were the biggest until 2003. Then came a huge drop because other countries introduced incentives, and for many years, commercial was the strongest category because EU countries could not offer incentives for them.
“Now, with the incentives, we have succeeded in increasing film and TV productions here. These are followed by commercials, and the smallest sector is Czech film productions which has never spent over 700 or 800 million a year.”
There was a Chinese film shot here this year – do you register an increased interest from Asian film producers?
“I would not say Asian film producers are now more interested in the Czech Republic. I think they are interested in exotic locations which Prague is. But that’s also true for Austria, Italy or France.
“We convinced them to come to Prague to see that the city can replace Paris. They came and eventually rewrote the script for Prague, and shot the film here.
“You first need to convince producers that it makes sense financially, and they are then able to make creative changes and move the production here.”